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Modernism: The Creation of Nation-States

Ahmet Ersoy
Maciej Górny
Vangelis Kechriotis

Chapter I. Making of the modern state in a multi-national context

To compatriots!

Lovro Toman
Traduction de Olga Vukovič

Texte intégral

1Title: Rojakom! (To compatriots)

2Originally published: Novice – gospodarske, obrtniške in narodne, Ljubljana, J. Blaznikovi dediči, 8 January, 1862

3Language: Slovene
The excerpt used is from the original publication, pp. 1–2.

About the author

4Lovro Toman [1827, Kamna Gorica (Ger. Steinbüchel, present-day Slovenia) – 1870, Rodaun (present-day Austria)]: poet, writer and one of the most popular and influential Slovenian politicians of the nineteenth century. He studied law in Vienna, where he actively participated in the political life of the Slovenes living there. He was the editor of the first uncensored Slovenian newspaper, which began to be published in Vienna in 1848. Toman was also an active member of the Slovenija association, which, in 1848 advocated the formation of the Kingdom of Slovenia as an autonomous part of the Habsburg Empire. At the same time, the association worked towards the recognition of equal status for the Slovene language in public administration and in education across the Slovenian lands. In 1848 he was an active member of the association of Slovenian academics in Vienna. After the university suspended its activities in 1848, Toman continued his law studies in Graz, where he earned a doctorate in 1852. In 1856, he became the first lawyer in Radovljica (Ger. Radmannsdorf). From 1861 to 1870, he was a deputy in the Vienna Parliament and a member of the Provincial Diet, where he struggled for the rights of the Slovenes. Together with Janez Bleiweis and Etbin Costa, he was among the forefathers of conservative political thought in Slovenia. In 1867, the year of the ‘Compromise,’ Toman objected to the idea of a dual monarchy. He had a good grasp of the economic needs of the Slovenes, and during the 1860s he was the head of the secretarial office of the ‘Trade and Crafts Chamber’ for Carniola. His reputation among the Slovenian public tarnished after he sold the concessionary rights for the construction of the railway line in Gorenjska (Upper Carniola). Modern historians consider Lovro Toman a political figure who contributed to the process of the inculcation of a distinct national identity among the Slovenes in the mid-nineteenth century.

5Main works: Sloveniji slobodni nje sinovi zvesti na Dunqju [To free Slovenia from her loyal sons in Vienna] (1848); Glasi domorodni [Patriotic voices] (1849).


6In the mid-nineteenth century, the lands largely populated by the Slovenes totaled some 24,000 square kilometers over four provinces. Slovenes were the majority in two provinces: Carniola and Gorizia, while in Carinthia and Styria they were a minority. The Slovenes were mainly farmers. German-speaking populations lived mainly in towns, so the intellectual atmosphere there was predominantly German in character, particularly so in the towns of Styria: Maribor (Ger. Marburg an der Drau), Celje (Ger. Cilli) and Ptuj (Ger. Pettau).

7In the mid-eighteenth century, the incipient Slovenian national movement had reached only a thin layer of society, namely the clergy and the secular intelligentsia, while the majority of the population lacked a strong opinion on the issue of national identity. Most people felt allegiance to their province and the monarchy, the latter being identified with the dynasty and the Emperor. The sense of national belonging was not necessarily associated with one’s origins and the mother tongue. So, owing to their traditional ties with the German cultural world, many Slovenes declared themselves Germans. The educated people, the aristocracy and the middle class identified with German, Italian or Hungarian culture, and only gradually acquired a modern national consciousness. In Carniola, the most Slovenian of all provinces, the term ‘Slovene’ slowly forced out the provincial designation ‘Kranjec’ (derived from Kranjska, the Slovenian name for Carniola). Even though explicit national conflicts were yet to emerge, the number of nationally oriented Slovenes sharply increased (especially among the Catholic clergy), while Slovenian-German relations became strained after the Slovenes presented their national and political demands in March 1848.

8After the war in Italy, the constitutional life of the Habsburg monarchy was characterized by caution and hesitation. The ‘October Diploma’ (1860) gave autonomy to the historical provinces, while the system that was created by the ‘February Patent’ (1861) was effective until the disintegration of the Habsburg monarchy. During the 1860s, the leading role within the Slovenian popular movement was taken by the circle around the editor of the first Slovenian newspaper Novice (News), Janez Bleiweis. In a debate about national and legal issues, he expressed his support for constitutional monarchy. During Anton Schmerling’s term in office (1861–1865), the Slovenian leaders opposed centralism, and later supported the conservative and federation-oriented government of his successor, Richard Belcredi. This type of cautious and moderate conservative policy had vocal opponents in the Slovenian-populated provinces, including some free-minded, liberal-oriented and educated individuals. These were especially numerous in Styria, the seedbed of the Slovenian national movement during the 1860s. But apart from the increasingly articulated Slovenian and German political camps, as early as 1848, there were also those who opposed the Slovenian movement; these were derogatorily called the nemšku-tars (derived from the Slovenian term for Germans, “Nemci”).

9In March 1861, the elections for the provincial diet in Kranjska revealed the popularity of Janez Bleiweis and the already widely-celebrated patriot Lovro Toman. At that time, the process of national-political differentiation was already clearly noticeable. The term Slovenec (Slovene) had acquired a new meaning. It was understood to denote someone who accepted the program and politics of the Slovenian political party. Whoever denied the Slovenian policy was regarded to be antagonistic to the Slovenes, regardless of whether that person was Slovene or German speaking. At the first session of the new provincial diet of Carniola in April 1861, Bleiweis and Toman were the first to use Slovene. Toman stressed the need to preserve the Habsburg Empire and rejected accusations that the Slovenes were separatists. He demanded the right to use Slovene in the provincial chamber, and later, between May and June 1862, he filed many petitions in the Vienna Parliament demanding the equality of the Slovene language in public administration and education. This was the spirit in which Lovro Toman wrote the open letter to the Slovenes on the New Year’s Day of 1862. The letter appeared as an editorial on the front page of the newspaper Novice.

10The conservative camp’s links with the Catholic Church and their cautious national policy prompted a group of liberally oriented Slovenes in Styria to found, in 1868, the newspaper Slovenski narod (Slovenian nation), which rejected dualism and supported federalism. It also defended enthusiastically the links with the Slavic and particularly South Slavic nations, and proclaimed the union of all Slovenian provinces under the Habsburg monarchy as the main political goal of the Slovenes. On the other hand, it generally acknowledged the close ties between the Slovenian nation and the Catholic Church. Lovro Toman, too, saw dualism as the “grave of our existence,” but as a member of the constitutional committee, he played an active part in the drafting of the December constitution of 1867. He made a crucial contribution to the formulation of Article 19, which ensured national and linguistic equality. Taking the formulation in the draft Kremsier constitution of 1849 as the point of departure, he proposed that every nation should be guaranteed the legal right to protect and develop its nationality and to use its language in schools, public administration and public life.

11Toman’s upright political stance also found expression in his poetry, in which he addressed the Slovenian (mainly peasant) population and encouraged their national emancipation. Accordingly, modern historians consider him a political poet who encouraged national awakening as well as a promoter of the collective spirit among the Slovenes. The most characteristic in this regard is Toman’s poem Mar i bor, written in 1861 praising the Slovenian character of the town of Maribor. On 3 August, 1862, he attended the first anniversary of the Maribor reading club, an event dominated by Slovenian patriotism, which some Germans living in Maribor interpreted as a provocation. While Toman was drinking a toast to his Slovenian compatriots, several Germans gathered in front of the building singing Was ist des Deutschen Vaterland. For months after this event, the atmosphere in the otherwise tranquil town on the banks of the Drava river was tense. German newspapers blamed Toman for the resulting tensions, accusing him of allegedly saying to the Slovenes in Maribor “that they should prefer to be buried under the ruins of the town of Maribor than admit that Maribor is a German town.”

12In the 1860s, the Slovenian nationalist model had achieved maturity. It was based on the ethnicization of social conflicts with the understanding that the nation is an eternal category. The Slovenes were represented as the oppressed majority that struggled for its rights against the rich German, as well as smaller Italian and Hungarian, minorities. Toman’s radical understanding of the nation was based on natural law and celebrated the sacred character of the Nation. His patriotism was ethnocentric and introvert. He portrayed the Slovenian character as being hysteric, overly defensive and uncertain. Toman hence earned for himself a firm reputation as the forefather of the Slovenian national ideology.


To compatriots!

14It is the first day of the new year! We are bidding farewell to the previous year, which was so enormously important for us—and now we must fulfill the obligations that still linger. I also have a sweet obligation yet to fulfill: to extend my gratitude to You, beloved compatriots, for showing ardent compassion over the past days when you expressed faith in my defense of the rights of the country and those of our nation. Allow me to express my gratitude, and my congratulations, now when my elated heart, aroused at the change of the year, rises and longs for the welfare of people.

15My fondest moments of the last year were those which brought to me, from many Slovenian provinces, your trust and your recognition that the welfare of a nation indeed lies in national development and national strengths, and that there is no true freedom without national independence. Your recognition is the foundation of the arduous struggle undertaken by myself and many compassionate patriots. But many more of our compatriots, who grope in the darkness of mistaken foreign erudition not illuminated by the light of their own minds, feel shame when they are called by the name of the nation of their origin. Shame be with them before this world. And glory and the nation’s gratitude be with you, now and for ever, you who obviously recognized yourselves as the loyal sons of the Slovenian mother! Your precious words are an appeal of the nation addressed to our ruler, a firm support for the nation’s defenders, a sharp retort to the scorners and slanderers, and a clear wish and will in favor of all of us to whom has been bequeathed the realization of equal rights and therefore the destiny of the nation.

16My heart is filled with ineffable joy at the feeling that our dear mother is not as desolate as some think. This knowledge makes me elated and entails the following reasoning: we lived through many long years, long centuries of disadvantage and calamity! The future is a daughter of the present and of the past. Both must be held in esteem. The black wing of the past retreated; the present stretches bright white wings beaming with radiant, awakening promises of the future! If we want to create a blissful, brilliant future, we have to eliminate oaths and mistakes that suppressed the development of the nation in the past; we must immediately set about to work. The present exacts from us the recognition of the nation’s purpose and the act of implementation. The aim of our nation is the same as that of any other nation. No one can deny this to us. The goal of the nation is our welfare, both physical and intellectual. Welfare proceeds from culture, and culture proceeds from education, the sole means of which is a national language.

17National awareness and national language must hence be our primary concerns. One who does not know what he is, cannot recognize his mission; one who has no sense of himself is without strength and courage. So, let us awaken our brothers and edify them about the prosperity and the benefits that will be bestowed on them lavishly through the development of the nation. Let us constantly demand respect for our language, its introduction into administration and education, and its use in everyday life. Let us reveal to those un-knowledgeable the richness, the beauty, the virtue and the gracefulness of our language; let us guide those who are lazy towards learning the language and towards reading our books and newspapers. They contain many intellectual seeds that will, once taken in, sprout and grow within the excited hearts. Let us have respect for our language in which our mother’s love first spoke to us sweetly and dearly, in which many years ago our apostles taught our nation the holy, saving religion, in which we said our first prayers to the Almighty, which is a bond that ties together the children of one mother, and whose survival and use is guaranteed to us by the Constitution and the trustworthy word of the Emperor.

18One who feels contempt for his language is the enemy of his religion, the ungrateful son of his mother; he disregards his country—his cradle; he is a renegade who abandoned his nation and is a foe of that nation. One who feels scorn for the national language is selfish because he despises the goal of the nation and places his own gains before those of the nation. One who says that our language should not be used in everyday life does not understand the only means of education and the path leading to it. One who declares that the supporters of the language want to lead you into poverty and ruin, and to move you away from law—do not trust him! His thoughts are malicious even when masked as affected promises; his heart is evil and malicious, even if he promises to make sacrifices for you; his words are lies, no matter how sweet and kind! Your only friends are those who adhere to the previously mentioned origins and principles which say that our national language should be in use and should live.

19All other Austrian nations are already enjoying the benefits of the use of their own language; the same law applies to us, who are so loyal to the state and the Emperor; his highest servants assured us that we are by no means forbidden to use our language, and that the equality of all nations will no longer be just talk, just words, but the truth and the fact: after this has been said, can any opponent, foreign or domestic, deny this sacred right of ours!? Beyond all doubt, no! Therefore, let us adhere firmly to this first and main right. Look at other nations, from the first to the last one; no one maintains the opposite because the nation that has lost its language, has lost its character, its independence, its essence. Such a nation becomes another’s slave, drowns and disappears. But we do not want to disappear; we have yet to begin to live in earnest, because that is the will of God! If until now we have been covered by an abhorrent darkness, that darkness has now been shattered by the constitutional law, under whose auspices we can wake, become aware and rise as equals to other nations.

20The more our national strength develops the more valuable member of the large family our nation will be. The curse or the blessing of our nation is also the curse or the blessing of the country. I declare clearly and without apprehension—because my conscience obliges me to obey the law—I declare clearly that one who is the enemy of our culture, our goal and our ultimate intentions, is also the enemy of the country, willingly or unwillingly, knowingly or unknowingly. These are our rules, my dear compatriots. They set apart the loyal from those who are disloyal, and friends from foes.

21I have knowledge and experience of the vile lies about us spread by the shameless enemies of our nation, who impute us intentions which we have never voiced or contemplated and insinuate acts we have never committed. No matter how poisonous these arrows are—we do not feel the pain, because they bounce off honest chests. When they cannot find the true reason to accuse us and defame us, they resort to lies and conceal from their conscience their own shame and their name.

22Compatriots! I am convinced that You can separate the wheat from the chaff, and that you know how to distinguish between Your friends and enemies. Our defense and our reward lie in that awareness. Therefore, be courageous and emboldened! We endured many a woe during the previous year, and we will do so also in the future. Many overdue tasks have to be accomplished—set about them now! Adhere to Your rights, never conceal them; love Your nation, our homeland, have respect for all other nations, obey the laws of our illustrious Emperor and of Him, who is the Lord of the Lords, and cherish hope, so that we truly enhance our intellectual and physical welfare, which is certainly my and Your sincere wish. Lord, bless the beginning, the progress and the end of the year. God be with You!

23Radovljica, 1 January, 1862

24Your faithful compatriot Dr. Lovro Toman


Olga Vukovič (Traducteur)

© Central European University Press, 2010

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